SA adults lag behind in global literacy stakes

South Africa’s adult literacy level is lagging behind other emerging markets even though it spends more on it, the South African Institute of Race Relations said on Wednesday.

The country has an adult literacy rate of 89%, and the country’s public education spending as a proportion of total government spending amounted to 18% in 2009/10, according to the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report.

Chile’s and Indonesia’s proportional spend was also 18%, but they had adult literacy rates of 98.6% and 92% respectively.

Lithuania and Poland’s adult literacy levels were 99.7% and 99.5%, with their expenditure amounting to 13% and 12% respectively.

Hungary and Bulgaria had an education expenditure of 10%, with adult literacy rates at 99% and 98%.

Of the Brazil, Russia, India, China (Brics) grouping, Brazil’s adult literacy rate stood at 90% although its education expenditure was only 16% of total government expenditure.

Russia and China’s literacy levels were at 99.5% and 93.7%, but no data was available for how much they spent.

India had the lowest adult literacy rate at 62.8%.

Jonathan Snyman, a researcher at the institute, said: “The way forward relies on strengthening the quality of teaching at school level and focusing on the commitment of teachers and principals,” he said.

The UN defines the adult literacy rate as the proportion of people aged 15 years and over who can read, write, and speak. — Sapa

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